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75th Anniversary of UDHR and UN Resolution 194
75th Anniversary of UDHR and UN Resolution 194

75 Years of International Complicity, Ongoing Nakba, and Israeli Genocide in the Gaza Strip

The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) coincides with 75 years of the Ongoing Nakba - ongoing displacement, dispossession, and the denial of the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination and return by the Israeli colonial-apartheid regime. Even now, as the UDHR is being celebrated, Israel is attempting another mass displacement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, right under the complicit eyes of the international community. 

In tandem with the UDHR, 75 years ago the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) also adopted Resolution 194 which reaffirms the right of return of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, and has yet to be implemented.

Despite its codification as a violation of humanitarian law in the Geneva Conventions, and as both a war crime and a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute, forcible transfer remains one of the main pillars of the Israeli colonial-apartheid regime’s strategy to execute its Zionist project of “Maximum of Palestinian land with the minimum of Palestinians”. The current Israeli genocidal war against the Gaza Strip has resulted in the killing of over 17,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and in the displacement of 1.9 million Palestinians (over 85 percent of the population), the vast majority of them 1948 refugees and their descendants. This is the largest wave of Palestinian displacement since the Nakba.

Forcible displacement is also occurring across the West Bank: since 7 October, at least 1365 Palestinians have been displaced due to the increasingly coercive environment (made) of colonizer violence, access restrictions, home demolitions, arbitrary arrests and detentions. Furthermore, Israeli forces have intensified raids in refugee camps and have killed 262 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 65 children, since 7 October 2023.

The Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory has warned that “again, in the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing”, and recalled that “Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war.”

For 75 years, the entirety of the Palestinian people has seen their human rights violated: they have not been able to exercise their right of return or self-determination, nor have they been able to exercise the most fundamental rights set forth in the UDHR.

It is not a coincidence that there is a content and temporal overlap between the UDHR and UN Resolution 194 on ‘the Palestine Question’. The UDHR was adopted on 10 December 1948, and specifically states in Article 13.2 that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” UNGA Resolution 194 was adopted the next day, on 11 December 1948, and clearly reaffirms Palestine refugees’ fundamental right to reparations, including return to their original homes, property restitution and compensation.

Both drafting processes were influenced significantly by the 1948 Nakba, which subsequently also influenced the drafting of the 1951 Convention on Refugees. The drafter of Resolution 194 and UN Mediator for Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, was assassinated on 17 September 1948 by the Stern Gang - a Zionist terrorist group, that also participated in the massacres and displacement of Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. The Stern Gang and other Zionist militias were never held accountable, neither for the assassination of a UN mediator, nor for their role in the 1948 Nakba.

Considering the lack of accountability then, it is not so surprising that today, Israeli forces have killed (with impunity) at least 133 UN staff members, and specifically targeted UN facilities - deliberately impeding the work of UN agencies providing aid and protection to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Resolution 194 also established the UN Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP), an agency mandated to facilitate, coordinate and implement the right of return of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons. However, the UNCCP was paralyzed by international complacency and western colonial states’ impunity for Israel, leaving it unable to fulfill its mandate.

Today, 75 years later, the Israeli colonial-apartheid regime continues to deny over 9.17 million displaced Palestinians their inalienable right to reparations, including return, property restitution and compensation. Not only have Western colonial states refused to apply international law and UN accountability mechanisms to Israel, but they also have continuously aided and abetted Israel’s forcible transfer laws, policies and practices, thereby entrenching its colonial-apartheid regime over the Palestinian people.

The complicity and support of Western colonial states for this ongoing genocide, and another mass displacement against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, along with their historical unwillingness to uphold international law, have impacted the legitimacy of international legal frameworks and mechanisms. The UN, and its agencies, are thus facing a credibility and relevance crisis, because of their failure to fulfill their responsibility as the guardian of International Law and Order, especially when it comes to their international obligations towards the Palestinian people. 

For 75 years, the Israeli colonial-apartheid regime has ignored, with international impunity, each and every piece of international law that Human Rights Day is supposed to celebrate. For 75 years, the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, both living in Mandatory Palestine or in exile, has been violated. This year’s theme, “Freedom, equality and justice for all”, is hence rendered ironic at best, ridiculous and offensive at worst.

Nevertheless, it remains true, 75 years later, and regardless of the complicity and involvement of Western colonial states in Israeli genocide and displacement, that a durable peace and just solution  for the Palestinian people can only be achieved through a rigorous rights-based decolonization approach that enforces UNGA Resolution 194, and the rights set forth in the UDHR.

Accordingly, BADIL and the Global Palestinian Refugee and IDP Network (GPRN) call on States, the UN and its Agencies and Mechanisms, including the Office of the High Commissioner to:

  1. Take all measures necessary to impose a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire, that includes the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, halt any further Palestinian displacement in and out of the Gaza Strip by providing all required humanitarian aid, including fuel, and establishing and creating safe shelters for the 1.9 million internally displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
  2. Provide international protection to Palestinians, no matter where they are, by activating, supporting and enabling UN agencies, especially UNRWA, to fulfill their mandates in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194, the Universal Declaration of Human Right and the 1951 Convention on Refugees.